US police say college student Zinat’s death was a suicide. Her family disagrees

US police have labelled the death of Zinat Hossain, a college student of Bangladeshi descent, in an incident on a New York train line a suicide. But her family and the Bangladeshi expatriate community disagree.

On Saturday afternoon, before funeral prayers for Zinat at the Baitul Jannah Mosque in Brooklyn, her grandfather Md Kabir said:

“The police report says Zinat committed suicide, but we don’t believe it.”

“They said she ‘died due to the fall’. But in actuality, this was a ‘hate crime’. Our community must unite in protest against this.”

Zinat, the only daughter of Amir Hossain and Jasmine Hossain, was a student at New York’s Hunter College. The family are natives of Cumilla’s Daudkandi Upazila.

Police recovered the body of the 23-year-old from underneath a train at the 55th Street Station on Wednesday night. She died on her way home from classes.

After her death, a video of another incident from Oct 24, 2019, began spreading on social media, with people claiming it was footage of Zinat’s death. The video – which showed muggers snatching a bag from a person before pushing them onto the train tracks – was mistakenly used by some media outlets in their reporting on the college student’s death.

Zinat lived with her mother and father at New York’s 42nd Street and 8th Avenue.

The family had immigrated to the US in 2015. Zinat’s only brother, Abid Hossain, is completing his post-graduate studies at Dhaka’s Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University.

Amir Hossain, Zinat’s father, was speechless with grief as he stood next to her coffin at the funeral service on Saturday. He kept touching the coffin, as if trying to reach out to his daughter one last time.

As Zinat’s coffin was taken from the mosque after the service, her mother Jasmine Hossain, who was sitting in a wheelchair, broke down in tears. The air was heavy with grief.

Zinat was later buried in New Jersey.

Zinat’s uncle, Dr Enamul Haque of the US Bangamata Council, said the family would hold a rally and a press conference to highlight the ‘truth’ and protest ‘the police cover-up’.

An organisation called the ‘South Asian American Fund for Education and Training’ has also called a demonstration in front of the New York City mayor’s office at City Hall over Zinat’s death.

Majeda Uddin, the chief executive of the organisation, has called on expatriates to take part in the protest to demand an investigation into the cause of Zinat’s death and public safety.